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Body Lice

Condition Basics

What are body lice?

Body lice are tiny insects that can make a temporary home in the seams of your clothing or bedding (sheets, pillows, and blankets). They're most often spread by contact with a person who has body lice or with that person's clothes, bedding, or towels.

Body lice are usually found only among people who can't wash their bodies or their clothes regularly.

What are the symptoms?

Body lice can cause very bad itching, especially at night. They can also cause sores in the armpits, waist, or torso. These are places where the seams of clothing can press against your skin.

It's hard to see body lice on your body. It's much easier to see lice or their eggs (called nits) on clothes.

How are body lice treated?

Most people can get rid of body lice by washing personal items and their bodies regularly. Clothes, bedding, and towels should be machine-washed in hot water [at least 130°F (54.4°C)] and dried on the hot cycle.

Try to bathe daily until there are no signs of lice on your body, clothes, or bedding. To prevent body lice from coming back, try to bathe and wash clothes and bedding at least once a week.

In most cases, you don't need medicine to kill body lice. But if these hygiene steps don't work, you can use an over-the-counter or prescription medicine to kill body lice. It's important to use any medicine correctly and to choose a medicine that is safe for you.

Credits

Current as of: March 3, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics

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